Within your definition, I am a gnostic atheist. One day we might understand the origin of the universe or of universes, but it is ridiculous to think that the origin was a god because that leads simply to the question of the origin of gods. Once created the universe is essentially simple. It provides elements and energy flows that can generate life by random processes. Once in existence, life can evolve into many different forms but those forms are limited by the forms they descend from. This process is summed up by the theory of evolution by natural selection. An essential of evolution is competition for the natural resources on which life depends. Different forms of life solve this problem, over a greater or shorter evolutionary time period, by matching their behavior to their physical and reproductive characteristics. These things co-evolve. The competition of evolution occurs within species as well as between species. Game theory shows us that co-operative behaviors can increase the overall efficiency of resource utilization and competitive success. In essence, different species arrive at different solutions to this game theory problem since their ecological adaptation and physical capabilities are far more complex than the game theory models. Within game theory and other studies such as organization and methods there is a concept of ruggedness. What that means in this context is that the solution works well over some range from its optimum. That is, its graph would have a shallow curve passing through the optimum and falling slowly to either side rather than being pointed. With a rugged solution to the survival problem a species can survive quite a large range of variation to either side of the optimum. Because of this, humanity can survive the damaging effects of religion, offset by some beneficial effects, just as it can survive other irrational ideas. In fact, religion has been a common theme of humanity throughout history and most probably for a far longer time than that even though rationally and logically it must be considered nonsensical. The problem to a thinking atheist then becomes one of of finding a rational substitute for religion. How should we behave to maximize our survival solution? The basis of the answer to that question comes from the statements above. That is, it must contain both co-operation and competition. Life is not a kind process but one in which winners survive and losers do not. That is the inescapable nature of evolution by natural selection and it applies as much to behavior as it does to resistance to disease, physical strength or stamina, intelligence, sexual attraction and so on. It means we must be able to identify those with whom we co-operate and those with whom we compete. We must differentiate those with whom we compete on an amicable basis from those with whom we are deadly enemies. We must then behave accordingly and in a rational manner. In summary, the universe exists for reasons we might or might not come to understand but it has no meaning as such. Life too has no meaning as such - it exists because the nature of the universe makes it possible. It takes the multitude of forms that it does because evolution by natural selection makes tat not only possible but inescapable. Our ethical and moral systems grow from the nature of our individual species as part of the survival solution of the species. In as much as life can be said to have any meaning it is self referential. It has meaning only within the imperatives of its own existence and continued existence. The equivalent survival solutions of other species are distinct from ours and there is no universal solution any more than there is only one form of life. English Wanna kill these ads? We can help!